Clare Collison, Anita Pati and Nina Mingya Powels win inaugural Women Poets' Prize

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Three poets “pushing at the bounds of what the art form can be” have been announced as winners of the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize. Celebrating poetry and the empowerment of women, the prize was launched this year by the Rebecca Swift Foundation, in memory of the editor, novelist, diarist, poet, and founder and director of The Literary Consultancy, Rebecca Swift.

The three winners will be matched with a poetry mentor in addition to a pastoral coach, facilitating a body of support that will nurture craft and wellbeing in equal measure, and will also be rewarded with a monetary award of £1,000.

The judges this year were the award-winning Pakistani-British poet and poetry tutor Moniza Alvi; the award-winning poet and writer Fiona Sampson; and Sarah Howe, who won both the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award with her 2015 debut, Loop of Jade.

Sarah Howe said:

“It was humbling and heartening to encounter the work of poets committed to pushing at the bounds of what the art form can be, the experiences it can encompass.”

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Claire Collison uses word and image in equal measure. Shortlisted for Bridport, Flambard, Poetry Business, Resurgence and Hippocrates prizes, she was commissioned to write for Refugee Tales at the Aldeburgh Festival. Artist in Residence at the Women’s Art Library, Claire performs her single-breasted life modelling monologue, Truth Is Beauty.

The judges said:

“These are mesmerising poems, with unusual and subtle shifts, sharp, grounded, and achieved with remarkable naturalness.”

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Anita Pati lives in London but was born and brought up in a northern seaside town. She is working towards her first poetry pamphlet.

The judges said:

“These poems are full of linguistic and sonic quirk, with a great display of emotional intelligence that moves the reader.”

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Nina Mingya Powles is a writer from New Zealand living in London. She is the author of Luminescent (2017) and Girls of the Drift (2014), and her poetry pamphlet Field Notes on a Downpour is forthcoming from If A Leaf Falls Press. She is poetry editor at The Shanghai Literary Review and won the 2018 Jane Martin Poetry Prize.

The judges said:

“There is incredible originality here, offering a real excitement about what poetry can do. This is a perfect merging of form and content.”

The Women Poets’ Prize works in collaboration with a network of partners, including Faber and Faber, Bath Spa University, The Literary Consultancy, RADA, City Lit, Verve Festival, and The Poetry School, to offer female-identifying poets a programme of support and creative professional development opportunities.

Find out more and join the conversation via
www.rebeccaswiftfoundation.org | @FoundationSwift

For all media enquiries please contact Daniel Kramb at FMcM Associates on 0207 405 7422 or danielk@fmcm.co.uk

Notes to Editors

About the judges

Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and came to England when she was a few months old. She grew up in Hertfordshire and studied at the universities of York and London. Peacock Luggage, a book of poems by Moniza Alvi and Peter Daniels, was published as a result of the two poets jointly winning the Poetry Business Prize in 1991. Since then, Moniza Alvi has written eight poetry collections. Europa (2008), a Poetry Book Society Choice, was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. At the Time of Partition (2013) was a Poetry Book Society Choice, shortlisted for the 2013 TS Eliot Prize, and won the East Anglian Writers Prize for poetry. Moniza’s latest collection is Blackbird, Bye Bye. She now tutors for the Poetry School and lives in Norfolk. In 2002 she received a Cholmondeley Award for her poetry.

Fiona Sampson is a prize-winning poet and writer. She has been published in more than thirty languages and received an MBE for services to literature. A Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature and the recipient of a number of national and international honours for her poetry, she has worked as a violinist, in health care and as an editor.

Sarah Howe is a British poet, academic and editor. Her first book, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015), won the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Born in Hong Kong to an English father and Chinese mother, she moved to England as a child. Her pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse, 2009), won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. She has performed her work at festivals internationally and on BBC Radio 3 and 4. She is the founding editor of Prac Crit, an online journal of poetry and criticism. She was a Research Fellow at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, before taking up a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at University College London. Previous honours include a Hawthornden Fellowship and the Harper-Wood Studentship for English Poetry, as well as fellowships from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. She is a Lecturer in Poetry at King ’s College London.

About the Women Poets’ Prize

As a biennial award, the Women Poets’ Prize will seek to honour Rebecca’s two key passions: poetry and the empowerment of women. The Prize will offer three female-identifying poets a programme of support and creative professional development opportunities in collaboration with seven partner organisations: Faber and Faber, Bath Spa University, The Literary Consultancy, RADA, City Lit, Verve Festival, and The Poetry School.

Each winner of the Women Poets’ Prize will be carefully matched with a poetry mentor in addition to a pastoral coach, facilitating a body of support that will nurture craft and wellbeing in equal measure. The three winners will also each receive a monetary award of £1,000. The Rebecca Swift Foundation is keen for poets at all career stages to apply, with a particular eye for applications from individuals who do not usually consider applying for prizes. The Foundation and the Women Poets’ Prize were announced formally at the Second Home Poetry Festival in June 2018.

About the Rebecca Swift Foundation

The Rebecca Swift Foundation is a UK registered charity set up in memory of Rebecca Swift – a much-loved editor, novelist, diarist, poet, and founder and director of The Literary Consultancy from its foundation in 1996 until her early death in April 2017. The Foundation is overseen by a Board of Trustees who held Rebecca dear, with Victoria Adukwei Bulley as Project Manager.

TLC was the UK’s first editorial consultancy for writers, and was co-founded by Rebecca and her colleague Hannah Griffiths after they met working together at Virago Press. At the time of its inception, TLC ’s aim was to bridge the gap between writers, agents and publishers. Jenny Downham, Tina Seskis, Penny Pepper, Neamat Imam, Prue Leith, and Kerry Young are among the many authors it has supported to publication over the years. Now an Arts Council England NPO, TLC also runs a nationwide bursary scheme for low-income and marginalised writers alongside its commercial editorial, mentoring, and events services.

Rebecca was a prolific writer, and a great lover of poetry. Her biography of Emily Dickinson, Dickinson: Poetic Lives, was published in 2011 with Hesperus Press, and she wrote poetry throughout her life. She was also a Trustee of the Maya Centre, a charity supporting vulnerable women in Islington through psychodynamic counselling, and a vocal supporter of their mental health therapy programmes which focus on enabling women to heal through learning to tell their stories.

In line with these passions – poetry, mental health, and women’s rights – the Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prize will provide a programme of longterm support and creative professional development opportunities to three female-identifying poets per year, selected through a judged application process. Each poet will be matched with a poetry mentor and a separate pastoral coach, and will have access to a number of inspirational ‘experience’ modules including Performance, Festivals, Bookbinding, Publishing History, Digital and Transmedia Skills, and a personalised Exploration module.

Rebecca was always very clear that her wish for TLC, as for the Foundation, was to shift the emphasis away from ‘outcomes’ that focussed on publication, and instead to maximise vital creative space for poets within a supported environment, giving them the opportunity to explore their writing and develop their poetic voice and their central sense of self, as well as improving skills through the learning modules, combining the holistic with the practical and allowing the poetry, and the poets, to flourish.

For all media enquiries please contact Daniel Kramb at FMcM Associates on 0207 405 7422 or danielk@fmcm.co.uk